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Flathead County closes fairgrounds grandstand due to safety concerns

by HEIDI DESCH
Daily Inter Lake | May 24, 2024 12:00 PM

Safety concerns have forced the closure of the main seating structures in the arena at the Flathead County Fairgrounds and pushed events to alternate venues for the time being.

The county began a capital improvement campaign in February to design and build a new seating structure to replace the north bleachers adjacent to the larger covered main grandstand, along with new concessions and additional amenities.

An inspection of the north bleachers found many areas with significant signs of rot and deterioration of the wood structure, framing and beams. Based on that inspection it was recommended that the seating area be closed to the public. 

The county is in the process of coordinating with structural engineering experts to facilitate a formal inspection of the grandstand and infield bleachers to ensure ongoing structural integrity. 

“We are reevaluating our arena events,” said Fairgrounds Manager Sam Nunnally in a media release. “No decisions will be finalized until further inspections are conducted. Ensuring public safety remains our top priority, and it will guide our actions.”

The closure timeline of the seating areas remains unknown at this point. Reopening will depend on inspection results and whether repairs are necessary. 

The Professional Bull Riding event that had been scheduled for the fairgrounds arena this weekend was moved to Majestic Valley Arena. 

It remains unknown if the closure will affect the rodeo and concerts held during the annual Northwest Montana Fair in August. Fair officials are looking at alternative options to possibly keep both events at the fairgrounds without using the seating areas, along with moving those events to alternative locations.

Other fair events, including the livestock sale and carnival, are still expected to continue as normal. 

For updates on the fairgrounds arena, visit https://flathead.mt.gov/department-directory/fairgrounds. 

Deputy Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or hdesch@dailyinterlake.com.